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Coconut Farmers Need Not Be Poor – Our Wealth is in Coconuts!

("The Cocommunity" - Monthly APCC Newsletter
Volume 44, Series No. 10, 1 October 2014)

Our stakeholders in the coconut sector from India, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that the maximum commercial value of the coconut is not fully realized in both primary and secondary production phases. Copra is still the traditional product in the region, processed into crude coconut oil, not only by choice but it seems as though the change to value addition is either a tight curve to negotiate carefully or a long curve that requires a few more inputs in place prior to the change be it market, capital, choice of equipment and or technology. A number of players in processing are sitting on the fence and talking to a few recently, it is not a comfortable seat, they, having commenced a one-line product item, are holding off any attempt to further diversify obviously due to the many challenges of confidence in commercial viability or that the graduation is needful of related resource commitments to make the next product work (marketable/ profitable).

Coconut Water producers are using young coconuts harvested as early as at 4-5 months whilst others harvest at up to 9 months at which stage the meat content is zero to very little hence the tender husk with shell are discarded, most times not subject to any further processing. Water from mature nuts is harvested mainly from arrangements with DC and VCO factories but none or very little at on-farm level. The husk with shell may find its way into further processing if not discarded.

Virgin Coconut Oil appears to be a product that could make the coconut sector in the sub-regions of the Pacific more viable because of the ability to process as close as possible to the point of origin with available technology, equipment and machinery under good management. Larger and better established factories utilize the water, husk and shell whilst for most others it is discarded to waste.

The message is simple as in the words Secretary Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan, Ministry of Food Security and Agriculture Modernization of the Philippine that “billions of tons of coconut water, husk and shell is discarded as waste” in all our coconut growing countries that could be turned into high value earnings for the farmer and his family that so desperately needs to convert their hard earned resource to sustain their lives and eventually give them an acceptable quality of life. Monetary value is yet to be quantified in regards to what could be the potential revenue for coconut famers.

The unique foliage canopy, vegetation with planting density of coconut palms allow sufficient sunlight past the palm leaves for a minimum of two-storey intercropping with food crops, cash crops, small livestock and even agro-forest in already proven coconut-based farming systems, promoted as Good Agriculture Practices, to maximize the potential of earnings per square metre of landholdings.

APCC is formulating projects in the areas of poverty reduction, food security and climate change preparedness for coconut farmers. The project outcomes seek inclusive growth and sustainable development of coconut farms. The project design explores as many options and opportunities possible under the coconut tree to ensure the farm and farmer are both viable entities and a productive asset to each other. The overall multiplying effect grows and develops a national economy from the renewable sector, utilizing the best solution we always had, our people. We seek the productive partnership of the governments of member countries, external donor communities as well as the private sector to make this a reality.

APCC congratulates the Philippines for a successful National Coconut Week and the 1st International Coconut Festival with the stakeholder forums. We congratulate India for yet again another highly eventful World Coconut Day held in Bangalore on 2nd September followed by very productive consultative dialogues with Farmer Producers Organisations of Karnataka. In Ghandi’s words on coconut nectar “it is an antidote to misery”, coconut farmers need not be poor!

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